§ Considered in Committee [Progress, 17th July].
§ [Mr. JAMES HOPE in the Chair.]
Question again proposed,
That for the purpose of any Act of the present Session to amend the law relating to tithe rent-charge and other rent-charges. rents, and payments in lieu of tithe, and the payment of rates thereon, and for other matters connected therewith, it is expedient that there shall in each year he charged on and paid out of the Consolidated Fund or the growing produce thereof to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue such sum as the Treasury may certify to be payable by those Commissioners under the said Act in respect of rates assessed on Queen Anne's Bounty us the owner of any tithe rent-charge vested in them under the said Act, after deducting therefrom amounts not less than the following (that is to say): an amount equal to £5 for every £100 of (tithe rent-charge previously attached to benefices which is liable to be rated, and which is for the time being vested in Queen Anne's Bounty, and an amount equal to £16 for every £100 of tithe rent-charge previously attached to ecclesiastical corporations which is so liable and vested.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I should like a word or two of explanation on this Resolution. I presume the Minister of Agriculture will reply for the Government, and I should like to know if this Resolution involves any charge on the Exchequer. Are we surrendering any tithe on Crown land or anything of that kind? Secondly, what is the actual sum of money involved, and particularly I would like to know what effect it will have on the rates.
In regard to the first point put by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut. -Commander Kenworthy), this Resolution in no way lays or relieves any charge on or from Crown lands, except, of course, as the hon. and gallant Member will recognise, that if there be any tithe rentcharge on Crown lands, it will fall to be dealt with in the same way as other tithe rent-charge in the Bill. With regard to what extra charge this imposes on the Exchequer, the hon. and gallant Gentleman will find full details set out in the White Paper which accompanies the Financial Resolution.
I am afraid the hon. and gallant Gentleman was misinformed. It is Command Paper No. 2446, but the upshot of it, as regards the charge on the Exchequer, is that the total new Exchequer charge under the Bill is estimated at a sum not exceeding £292,500, a full explanation of which is given in the White Paper, and in regard to which I gave a supplementary explanation when this Resolution was introduced, I think last week, on which occasion I was not, perhaps, fortunate enough to count the hon. and gallant Gentleman among my auditors. With regard to the effect on the rates, the object of the Resolution is to transfer from the shoulders of the ratepayers the extra burden thrown upon them under the Act of 1920, and that is all that it does. The Act of 1920, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be aware, made certain alterations, in connection with the rating, of tithe, which had the effect of increasing the burden on other ratepayers. The burden has proved heavy, and, therefore, in con- 2615 nection with the general scheme of redemption of tithe rentcharge, it has been thought wise to transfer that extra burden, which Parliament never intended to lay on the ratepayers.
§ Sir HENRY CAUTLEY
Does not this provision throw on to the taxpayers all rates that may be put on to ecclesiastical corporation tithe above £16? The ecclesiastical corporation titheowner has still got the advantage of only paying half tithe. All the lay tithe, of which the bulk is the collegiate tithe held by the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, is still liable to full tithe. They have, by the Tithe Act, the total value of the tithe stabilised, but they remain liable to full rates, and they remain liable to any increase of rates that may take place in the future. Under the Bill, the ecclesiastical corporation tithe remains only subject to £16, which, I take it, is the assumed present value of half the tithe on the ecclesiastical corporation tithe, and I should like to know what is the reason for that, and why these collegiate and charitable institutions should be left to bear their full tithe.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I cannot help thinking that this is a matter of policy under the Bill, and hardly a matter for this Resolution. If I understand this Resolution, if I am not misinterpreting it, it merely throws on to the Consolidated Fund the amount of rates which are variable under the present Bill, and no Amendment of this Resolution or failure of this Resolution to pass would affect the relief granted under the former Act to ecclesiastical tithepayers.
On that point of Order. This Financial Resolution, of course, affects the burden that will be thrown on the Consolidated Fund under the present Bill, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) is quite right in his main contention that the effect of the present Bill is to continue a rating position that is temporary at the present time. I do not discuss that, of course, at this stage.
May I, in one sentence, answer my hon. and learned Friend? He asked me why we make this provision 2616 with regard to £16 in the case of the ecclesiastical corporations. The principle on which we try to proceed in this Bill is to preserve the status quo as far as we can in the matter of rating. I think it will be seen that the £10 does preserve the status quo so far as these ecclesiastical corporations are concerned. My hon. Friend asks, Why not do that also in the case of colleges and collegiate tithes? That is another question, which we may have other opportunities of discussing. I will only give the short explanation now, that it would be impossible to extend the same treatment to colleges without at once introducing a new principle, and would be departing from the broad basis on which I would proceed, and am asking the Committee to proceed to maintain, as far as possible, the status quo in all these matters.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir Douglas Hogg)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is a Bill designed to carry out recommendations which were made by the Committee set up in 1922 under the chairmanship of Lord Dunedin, in order to advise on the procedure to be adopted in future to assist the Prime Minister in making recommendations for honours. The House will remember that that Committee ultimately reported, making two main recommendations. One was that a Committee of three members of the Privy Council should be appointed for the purpose of scrutinising the list of persons whose names it was proposed to put forward for an honour on account of political services, and reporting thereon. That did not require legislation, and the Committee was duly set up. The second recommendation was that an Act should be passed imposing a penalty upon anyone procuring, or endeavouring to procure, an honour for any pecuniary or other valuable consideration, and upon any person promising such payment in order to receive an houour. This Bill is designed to carry out the second recommendation. The 2617 Committee, as the House will remember, contained, among other members, the right hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson), and he did not agree with all the recommendations of the Committee. He took the view that its scope was wider than the majority thought, but he expressly said that he concurred in this recommendation, and that it was a proper Measure to enact.
The Bill was introduced in another place, where it received the assent of all parties, and I hope it may be equally fortunate here. I do not suggest that the mere passage of a Bill is going to put an end to traffic which all parties condemn, but I think the fact that Parliament makes it a penal offence to engage in traffic of this sort, is calculated not only to mark the feeling which, I believe, is general in the country with regard to traffic of this kind, but also to make it less probable in future that persons will engage in a traffic that is dishonourable to themselves, and discreditable to the country to which they belong.
§ Mr. ARTHUR HENDERSON
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has reminded the House that I was a member of the Committee which investigated this question of honours. I did not see eye to eye with the remaining members of the Committee in the findings that they retched, but I did concur in an effort being made to deal with what I considered to be a very serious abuse in connection with the administration of honours, and to deal with it in the way that this Bill proposes. I am not sure that I was not actually responsible for the suggestion that this punishment ought to be inflicted upon those who were guilty of what, I think, the Committee were satisfied existed, namely, a form of what we. call touting for the purpose of receiving payment as a result of an honour being conferred. Those of us who took the line I did, said that some of the very best service in this country was rendered by people who had no idea of receiving an honour of any kind. Then we took the line that, if political honours had to be given, it was absolutely essential that the administration of those honours should be associated with the highest standard of virtue. If it could be proved that there was a departure from the high standard of virtue, as I think it could be proved—indeed, I did my very 2618 best to have brought before the Committee some who were known to have been guilty, or, at any rate, were said to have been guilty, of the very bad practice of almost making their livelihood out of this very objectionable business, and if it had to be stamped out, as we knew it existed, it was necessary for some penalty to be imposed. The Bill, in my judgment, is belated, because, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has reminded us, I think we reported some time in 1922, and I had hoped that one of the first things that would have been done would have been to place this Bill upon the Statute Book. However, better late than never, and I hope the Bill will have the support of the whole House.
§ Mr. MORRIS
The speech of the. right hon. and learned Gentleman was certainly one of the most remarkable speeches ever made by the Attorney-General. I do rot think I do him any injustice when I say the speech roughly was this: All parties in the House concur that this practice of trafficking in honours is one that should be condemned, and condemned by universal opinion of the House, and the best way of doing it is to be obtained by this Bill It is true that the Bill cannot be enforced, that it cannot be put into practice, but in order to pass some kind of Resolution that we condemn the traffic in honours, we pass this Bill. How this Bill is going to be enforced when passed puzzles me. The Bill says:If any person accepts or obtains or agrees to accept or attempts to obtain from any person for himself or for any other person or for any purpose any gift, money or valuable consideration as an inducement or reward for procuring or assisting or endeavouring to procure the grant of a dignity or title of honour …As hon. Members know there are elaborate methods resorted to in some of these matters. How is the law going to be set in motion? How are the parties going to be found out? However, in so far as the Bill marks the view of all parties in the House that this traffic is one which is to be deplored, and put a stop to, as far as it can be done, we on this side support it.
§ Mr. MAXTON
In supporting the Bill, I also, like the hon. and learned Member who has just spoken, and other speakers, have some doubt in my own mind as to how far this Bill will be effective in combating this abuse. It seems to me that there is implicit admission in the Bill 2619 that in the past very highly placed persons in the political life of this country have been carrying on a very disgraceful traffic, because as I understand it, this sort of thing could not be done effectively except by any one who had a considerable standing in the public and social life of the country. If that is so, one imagines that the penalties suggested here are much too light for persons who ought to have some sense of public responsibility, and not use their public position for the sake of personal financial gain. I could have wished that either the Attorney-General or my right hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) could have given the House, and thereby the country, the knowledge that they quite obviously have. The free use of a few names would probably have a more deterrent effect than the very, very moderate penalties that are laid down in Sub-section 3 of the first Clause of the Bill. I hope that when the Bill goes to Committee the penalties will be altered considerably. Two years' imprisonment is a very common sentence given to ignorant and unlettered persons convicted of minor crimes. When a public man of some standing has been guilty of a disgraceful act of this description the penalty seems to me far too small; the period of imprisonment should be considerably extended, and the option of a fine absolutely removed.
Further, I think it would be absolutely wrong for those of us on these benches to allow this Bill to pass through the House without expressing the view that the real solution of this problem lies in the abolition of these honours and titles altogether. In this era of so-called civilisation surely we are beyond the stage of these tinselly, baubly honours which have absolutely no significance whatever, and which do not enhance the character or the dignity of the man to whom they are attached. In many cases it is a humiliating thing to the men who have rendered great public service during their lives under their old names to be buried under some new title in the declining years of their life. It would be raising the whole dignity of public life in this country if people retained their own names without prefix or affix of any description. I hope the Attorney-General will at an 2620 early date bring forward a Measure, such as the one my right hon. Friend the Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield (Mr. Ponsonby) introduced under the Ten Minutes Rule some time ago for the abolition of all hereditary titles. The Attorney-General could take that as the basis of a wider Measure, and he would thus have achieved something at a particular stage of this matter. I know his Government is very, very anxious to do anything that they can that does not cost money.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am not talking about party funds, or anything of that sort. I suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he should take his courage in hoth hands, because—let hon. Members mark it!—we have been told in the country that this was not one of the old Conservative Governments, but that is was a new democratic Government; that this Government were friends of the people. Such an action as I have suggested on the part of the Government would be making a great gesture—to use a phrase which is now used—towards letting the people know that they were wishful to abolish all titles, to strip everybody of these trimmings, and let us all be plain Mr. John Smith. I want the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider that suggestion very seriously, for while willing to support this Bill with considerable amendment in Committee, I think we ought to take a further step forward.
This Bill, I need hardly say, will meet with no opposition from any hon. Member on these benches. It does mark a considerable advance in the attitude of Governments towards this honours question. This Government appears to be inspired by what Mr. Disraeli said, and I should like for the information of the House to read what that was. Mr. Disraeli, writing in 1858 to Sir John Pakington, about the distribution of these honours, said:The spirit of a party depends greatly on the distribution of patronage …. The interests of the party never require an improper appointment. An improper appointment is a job. Nothing injures a party more than a job. But at the same time there is nothing more ruinous to political connexion than the fear of rewarding 2621 your friends, and the promotion of ordinary men of opposite opinions to qualified adherents".That was the opinion of Mr. Disraeli as to the proper use of patronage in the building up in a position of strength of a Government. This Bill carries out some of the recommendations of the Commission that was appointed, as the Attorney-General has told us, about two years ago. That Commission made altogether six recommendations. First of all they said that a Committee of three Privy Councillors should be appointed by the Prime Minister for the time being. That, I understand, has been done. It was done by the late Government. It has been done by this Government. The names recommended for honours were to be sent to this Committee for approval. I understand that also has been followed. Again the Patronage Secretary for the party organisation had to certify to the Committee—according to the recommendation of the Royal Commission—that no money consideration had been received in respect of any honour that was recommended. I do not know whether that recommendation is being carried out. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury can tell us.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Commander Eyres Mansell) indicated assent.
That is very desirable. Further, the Commission recommended that the names of the sponsors of anyone recommended for honours should be supplied to the Committee. Fifthly, it was recommended that the Committee themselves should not initiate a grant of honour; and, sixthly, that there should be penalties for doing so. This, then, is the purpose of the Bill. These are all precautions which have been recommended after great consideration by persons of wide experience and ripe judgment for the prevention of this very objectionable traffic in honours. In point of fact, I agree with, the hon. and learned Gentleman below me that no legislation of this sort is likely to be effective in the long run. My own feeling is that the best thing would be to abolish at any rate hereditary honours altogether. The hereditary honour is more attractive to a man who wants to buy an honour, because 2622 he feels that when his son succeeds people will not remember how the honour was secured.
I agree with the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) that a man is not really dignified by having a title attached to his name. It would be best to do what has been done in our Dominions, in Canada, in South Africa and, I think, in South Australia. I believe that in South Australia no honour can be given unless a Resolution is passed by the Parliament of the State to that effect. In South Africa, I think, they have passed a Resolution against having honours; and it is six years or more since Canada passed a similar Resolution. There is no reason why, in this democratic age, we should not take the advice given to us by the hon. Member for Bridgeton and abolish altogether signs of distinction, which add nothing new to the glory of a great name, and do not obscure mediocrity or push or squalid ambition. The only real way to get rid of the taint of money payment is by publication of the list of party funds. Resolutions have been passed by both Houses, certainly by the other House, to that effect. I remember a Resolution brought in by Mr. Belloc during a Liberal administration. I am not quite sure what the result of the vote was on that occasion, or how I cast my own vote, but I remember the Motion very well, and the House of Lords passed one in the same sense.
Then the hon. Member's party would not oppose it. That is the real cure, not that we should have these more or less futile and ineffective Bills against touting, but that the parties themselves should be compelled by law to publish to the world the sources of the supplies for the party organisations. If that were done, it would be far better than any Bill for attaining an object on which all sides of the House are agreed.
§ Mr. POTTS
I would like to ask the learned Attorney-General this question. Supposing this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, and an individual is given a title, and it is afterwards ascertained that the same individual contributes 2623 £1,000 or £5,000 a year, towards the headquarters' funds of a political party, would that be deemed to be a breach of the Act and an offence? Will the learned Attorney-General also consider the fine of £50 which is mentioned in the Bill? I know there can be other penalties, but they could let him off with a fine of £50, and a fine of £50 in the case of a rich man simply makes the Act a farce. Either titles ought to be entirely done away with, and I believe in that, or any man should be able to buy a title—we should sell titles, the State to receive the financial consideration paid for them.
§ Mr. BATEY
None of us wants to oppose this Bill. I agree with those who are trying to prevent the traffic in honours, and my only regret is as to what the Bill fails to do. If we are to deal with honours we ought to be given a chance of dealing with the matter thoroughly, and particularly given the chance of saying whether we agree with honours or not. So far as I am able to gauge the feeling of the rank and file of the Labour movement, it is totally opposed to honours and would abolish them altogether. It is not good for any man to have an honour. After a man is made a Sir or a Lord he immediately begins to think himself as being of different clay to the ordinary man, regarding the ordinary man as something beneath him. Some time ago, when this matter was rather prominent in the public Press, we were told that men were prepared to pay something like £25,000 to be made a Sir, and something like £40,000 to be made a Lord. A man who is prepared to pay any such sums for an honour has far too much money. An hon. Member suggests to me that the man ought to be in a lunatic asylum, and I am rather inclined to agree that he ought to be examined by a doctor.
At the beginning of the Session a campaign was waged by Members of the party opposite, being carried on with keenness and bitterness, in which they attacked the Members of the Labour party on the subject of the sources from which we derive the money for the purpose of sending us here. We believe, rightly or wrongly, that honours are given to men for the purpose of obtaining funds for the political party that is in power. We believe that is not a good thing for a party. It would 2624 be better for a party, instead of getting its funds from the sale or the giving of these honours to men with too much money, to depend instead on the pence and shillings of its supporters. I am sorry that when we are discussing this question that we have to discuss it in this limited way. I would prefer to deal with it in a bigger way on a Motion put down to abolish honours altogether.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I agree with the expressions of opinion to which we have been listening on this question, which has bean frequently ventilated in recent years. What has transpired reflects great discredit upon those who are in society and are reckoned to be the shining lights of the nation. I have been trying to picture the spectacle suggested by the proposal of the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Potts) for selling honours to the highest bidder. It reminds one of Christie's. I am quite confident that some would plunge their last penny in order to secure a title. We know the tendency perfectly well, and it is a disappointing feature of our public life. There is one name identified with the statesmanship of our land, the name of William Ewart Gladstone. Whatever may be our views about his line of action as a politician he was truly a great man. He was all the more marked as a great man because he definitely declined all your honours. Another man of this character was one of our own Scotsmen, Thomas Carlyle, and it is one of the important records we find in his old-time home at Chelsea that that distinguished statesman, Mr. Disraeli, who led so ably the party opposite, had communicated to the Scottish philosopher the kindly idea of arranging that he should be recognised in such fashion by the State, It is still more interesting to find the characteristic way in which Carlyle responded in declining the offer that was then made. Whatever party we may belong to the real idea of public service is to render it to Him alone who does give and can give honours for all time and eternity. It is that loyal service which we can render to those less fortunate than ourselves, and our loyalty and steadfastness in that direction which will stand the test in that hour when we shall be called upon to give an account 2625 of our stewardship and we shall have no reason then to claim honours for ourselves, but to crown him Lord of all.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I am not going to vote for this Bill or any other Bill of its kind, because I have always been taught that honour is something that can neither be bought nor sold. What we are discussing to-day is the question of the regularisation of the sale and traffic in honours. What I want to know is why anybody who is capable of committing such abuses as those which are mentioned in this Bill should have honours conferred upon them? Why should such men be brought into this sphere, when there is no honour about them? The man with real honour about him is the man who refuses all these things and keeps clean for life.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
If a man contributes to party funds, and makes that a condition of getting an honour, he would come under this Bill.
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
On the general principle of honours, I would like to say to the House that some change has come over public opinion of late years, with regard to what is and what is not honour. There was a distribution of honours during the War, and I think this illustration will show to the House how the majority of the workers look upon such things as honour. In one large shipyard on Clydeside it was intimated to a certain section of the workers that one of them would be entitled in the distribution of British Empire honours to a C.B.E. They had a meeting about it, but they could find no one who was anxious for this particular honour, and they were asked to make a recommendation, and the man they recommended for this honour happened to be the lavatory attendant. From this, hon. Members will see the high regard the shipyards of the country have for these honours.
With regard to the distribution of honours, and its effect upon party organisation, I always keep in mind what I read before I came to this House in a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the 2626 Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who used a very pregnant phrase. He said:If the giving of honours is abolished, the party system will collapse.There can be no more pregnant words than those on this subject, and I commend them to the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain Benn), and I hope he will draw the attention of his Leader to them. The strength of the party on these benches lies in the fact that we have no such corrupt source for our own funds. There may be things that are rightly complained of in regard to our organisation, but the sources from which we derive our funds are not corrupt, and in that our strength lies. The subsidising of any party, political or religious, is not a source of strength, but weakness, and I believe the success of our cause in the future lies in the fact that we do raise our funds in a legitimate way, and the party opposite and the party below the Gangway could not do better than emulate our example in that respect.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House for Monday next.—[The Attorney-General.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Sir J. G1LMOUR
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
All hon. Members who come from Scotland are well aware of the importance of this question of establishing a National Library, and I make bold to say that there is no one in this House who knows the circumstances who will not welcome the Measure which I have the honour now to introduce. The Advocates' Library in Scotland has continued for a long period of years, and all through that time it has done great service for the public. The difficulties which have come upon the country generally as the result of the War and more stringent times, brought this question to a head in 1922, and it was then found 2627 desirable and necessary that Government support should be sought. At that time, the Government were not in a position to accept the responsibility of taking over the library, but they did make a grant from public funds of £2,000 per year towards it. Subsequently, there was a united effort on the part of those interested in this problem in Scotland to raise a fund by private means which would place the library upon a sound foundation, and it was through the generosity of the owners of the library in offering it upon very favourable terms and also through the generosity of Sir Alexander Grant, who contributed a gift of £100,000, that it became possible, on a subsequent date in 1922, for the Government to accept this gift to the nation. I will not enlarge upon the matter beyond saying that I am satisfied that the board of control, who will have the management of this library in the future, is representative of many interests, both educational and of those bodies which are publicly elected in Scotland. I trust that the House will be good enough to pass this Bill through all its stages to-day. I can only say, in support of that appeal, that it is an urgent matter, both from the financial point of view and from the point of view of getting on with the necessary alterations to the building.
§ Mr. WILLIAM GRAHAM
I can assure my right hon. Friend at once that, so far as we on this side of the House are concerned, there will be nothing but a desire to promote the early passage of this Bill. I rise for only one minute, because it so happens that this is a matter not only of great importance to the Scottish people but also, if I may say so, to the Central Division of Edinburgh, which includes practically every building of historical importance in the city, with the possible exception of Holyrood Palace, which by an accident strayed a few yards outside the constituency. Among the most important of these buildings is this Advocate's Library and all that that has meant to Scottish law and Scottish character. I agree with my right hon. Friend that this is a remarkable change in what I may call the provision which we make for the intellectual progress of the Scottish people, because what is here proposed is the transfer of a great and a 2628 very important library from the worthy but still exclusive use of the Faculty of Advocates to the ownership and use of the Scottish people. In other words, what the Secretary for Scotland is proposing this afternoon is in my judgment the highest form of Socialism in this or any other country, because he is bringing the means of learning directly to the owner ship of the Scottish people under a representative board. That is a remarkable departure in the case of a Conservative Government, and it is one, of course, which we are bound to encourage.
I only want to ask the right hon. Gentleman one question. I understand that the annual grant of £2,000 which we make from public funds to the Advocate's Library will disappear with the coming in of this Act, and I notice that there are Clauses in the Bill dealing with the financial proposals. Can my right hon. Friend give the House any idea of the charge upon public funds, and whether it will be necessary to have a Financial Resolution to cover it? I merely ask that question for the purposes of information, because I want to make it clear. I do not think that any right hon. Member would grudge anything from public funds for this very important object in Scotland. There is only one other point. We have got the transfer of the Advocate's Library under, I think, generous conditions, but the next thing we require for the Central Division of Edinburgh and Scotland is an appropriate building in which to house this great institution. That will be the next step, and I venture to throw out the suggestion that, if there is anybody who wants to reduce his liability for annual taxation or the liability which follows death, there is no better way of achieving that object than by making a substantial gift which will enable us to house this library for public use in appropriate form.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
I am glad to learn that this Bill, which receives universal support in Scotland, is so ably and cordially backed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham). I do not think it would be right to pass the Bill without one word of acknowledgment of the very great public spirit which has animated the Faculty of Advocates in 2629 handing over to the public an age-long privilege which they have possessed exclusively.
When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) has had better opportunities of access to these sources of learning which are now most generously being placed at the disposal of the public he will be in a better position to appreciate the relative historical merits of the various divisions of the great capital city of Scotland. It is a little under three years since the citizens of Leith were themselves in possession for a short time of the castle, and, I presume, of the building in which this Library is now housed. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for East Renfrew (Mr. MacRobert), who once contested Leith and in whom Leith lost a very valuable representative, had studied the history of Leith a little more, he would know that for a short time it occupied the castle in Edinburgh. I only refer to this fact to show the value of placing at the disposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh and others all the sources of learning that can be made available. As a Scottish Member, I would join in the general chorus of approval of this Bill, and I desire nothing except to facilitate its passage.
§ Dr. SHIELS
I should like to add my congratulations to those which have been offered to the right hon. Gentleman on being able to introduce this Bill into the House to-day. My right hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) has introduced a somewhat discordant note by his arrogant claims for Central Edinburgh, but I was very much obliged to him for leaving me Holyrood Palace. I am not disposed to be critical on that point, although I sympathise with the hon. and gallant Member, in regard to the historic claims of that charming part of the town of Edinburgh, the Port of Leith, which I am afraid, perhaps, the citizens of Edinburgh do not appreciate at its true value. I should like to add to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh said with regard to a new building. I do hope that, now that this transfer has been achieved, no time will be lost in getting an appropriate and suitable building. We shall have again, I suppose, the usual battle 2630 of the sites. There is a number of admirable places available, and I hope the matter will be gone into by the Commissioners of Works as soon as possible. I should also like to ask, if I may, a question as to the freedom of access to this library. In the past, privileges have been granted to various people to inspect the Advocates' library and consult the books, but it has not been a free library in the ordinary sense, and if the Government could give us any information as to whether the library is to be free of access to all Scottish people, it would be very interesting. I certainly think it is very desirable that it should. I have nothing more to add except to express my great pleasure at seeing this Bill brought in.
§ Sir SAMUEL CHAPMAN
A mistake is sometimes made in being a little too diffident in this House, and, as all those hon. Members who have spoken have expressed their tribute to the generosity of the gentleman who is really practically the founder of this new movement, I think I ought, as he happens to be a constituent of mine, to join in, or someone will think that I, as the representative of the greatest constituency in Edinburgh, do not fully appreciate the generosity of Sir Alexander Grant. I only rise to say that the whole of Scotland realises the generosity with which that gentleman on this, as on many other occasions, Has started a movement which will result beneficially to the literary and historical associations of Scotland.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I only rise because I have a feeling that, while this Bill is proposing to establish a National Library for Scotland, the fact that the Edinburgh Members seem to be claiming the special right to give it their blessing might lead to the conclusion that they think this is a library for Edinburgh; and, when one reads the Schedule to the Bill and the composition of the board of directors, one comes to the conclusion that Edinburgh—which, if the truth be told, is one of the minor cities of Scotland—is having an undue share in the control and setting up of this new National Library. I should be glad if the Secretary for Scotland could consider, before we reach the Committee stage, whether some changes might not be made in the large board of directors which he 2631 proposes to set up under this Bill, and I would like him more particularly to consider this point: I do not know why the omission was made—I am sure it was only an omission—among the persons to be elected to the directorate, but, while he has one from the Convention of Royal Burghs and one from the Association of County Councils of Scotland, he has not considered it fit to include one from the education authorities of Scotland. It seems to me that they have a much greater interest in the library movement than either the Convention of Royal Burghs or the Association of County Councils, and that the Association of Education Authorities could very easily provide another representative who would add something to the dignity of and the public interest in the board of directors. With these words from the proletarian West to mingle with the more dulcet tones of the cultured East, I give my blessing to the Bill at this stage, without prejudice to what action I may take when it reaches the Committee upstairs.
§ Mr. PALIN
There seems to be some thing suspicious about this unanimity amongst Scottish Members. It seems to me, as far as I can discover, that they have just been presented with a gold medal and now want a gold watch-chain to add to it. It seems to me that this library is, possibly, going to be a very costly thing for the nation, if we have to provide a new building now that we have the library. I do not, however, want to place any obstacle in the way when I see the lion lying down with the lamb, but merely to express the hope that it may long continue.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I only want to put a question to the Secretary for Scotland. Can he tell me whether there has been any consultation with the University of the City of Dundee? I see that the city is recognised municipally, but I would have it remembered that it also has some credit as a seat of learning. It is closely connected with the University of St. Andrew's, and I should have thought that the University would have liked and would expect to be recognised by way of representation on the board. I am quite confident that this sort of Government grant will be appreciated from any Government that happens to be in power.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
In rising by leave of the House to make a brief reply, I have to admit in the first place that the request that I ventured to make that all stages of the Bill might be taken to-day is, I find, practically impossible because of the Financial Resolution. I am encouraged, however, to think that when this Bill goes to the Scottish Grand Committee, as I suggest it should, every facility will be given for its rapid passage and for its further stages in this House. The Financial Resolution, of course, will be before the House, when the House will be able to see its exact terms. No doubt, in course of time, we shall hope to add to the building because of the growth of the Library, which is continually increasing. So far as regards its general purposes and control, it will be a public library in the fullest sense, and as freely open to the general public as any such institution can be. There should be no doubt about that. With regard to Dundee, I am quite certain that the University of St. Andrews has been consulted in the matter.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Would the right hon. Gentleman indicate whether he could do something on the point I suggested, in regard to the education authorities?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I will certainly give careful consideration to that, and the hon. Gentleman will notice that there is a certain number of nominations in the hands of the Secretary for Scotland. I will certainly consider the point.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee,
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is a Bill which, though formidable in bulk, ought not to occupy the time of the House very long. The Statutes relating to the administration of justice in the English Court of Judicature are spread over a series of years beginning as far back as Edward III's 2633 reign and coming down to the present year, and for a long time past there has been an increasing demand among those who practise in the Courts to have the Statutes consolidated. Of of course, that involves no alteration in the law, but you would have it in one Statute, so that your law may be more easily and more certainly ascertained. There are, it appears from the Schedule to the Bill, no fewer than 105 Statutes which at present have to be consulted. In future, if this becomes law, they will all be in one Statute. When there is a Consolidation Bill it is necessary that it should go to a Joint Committee in the first instance, which considers it and reports that it is merely consolidation and not alteration of the law. That course has been duly followed in this case, The Bill has already passed another place, and I am hoping that if I get the Second Reading now it may be possible to take the Committee stage forthwith, so that we may get it passed into law in sufficient time to enable textbook writers, and those whose business it is to make themselves acquainted with the law, to familiarise themselves with the Statute before it becomes operative at the end of the year.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Resolved, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee on the Bill."—[The Attorney-General.]
§ Bill accordingly considered in Committee, and reported, without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed, without Amendment.
§ Ordered, That Captain Gee be discharged from the Committee, and that Mr. Somerville be added.—[Mr. F. C. Thomson.]